On the Silk Road, Kygyzstan
I had the chance to visit one of the caravanserai that dates from Marco Polo's time. There are very few routes through the mountains into China, and around the corner from this photograph is an 1000-year-old stone building, rebuilt a hundred times, which was once the stopping place, where one camped, traded stories, and swapped out one's horses. I wrote Any Bright Horse several years before travelling here, but sometimes I think poetry writes our lives ahead of us. It's a kind of Janus god, looking forwards and back, always at a threshold. Typically, whenever I find myself at an interesting crossroads, there is at least one dog to keep me company while I write.
Any Bright Horse was published by Frontenac House & was shortlisted for the 2012 Governor General's Award for Poetry. The Governor General is the Canadian representative of Queen Elizabeth II.The award was established in 1937 and winners include such writers as Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler, and Leonard Cohen. So to put it mildly, I was incredibly honoured to be nominated.
I have many skills, but I am absolutely crap at describing my books. I would honestly be better off attempting to explain my work while using sock puppets & interpretive dance in front of the caravanserai than trying to use sentences. Fortunately, there are articulate reviewers out in the world who don't have to resort to sock puppets... so here is what people said about Any Bright Horse:
Beth Everest wrote in FREEFALL: 'What intrigues me most about Lisa Pasold’s poetic narrative is the perspective. The book contains six sections, alternating focus between Marco Polo’s journeys and those of a contemporary dancer. But this is what happens: after we are introduced to Marco Polo and his stories, the contemporary narrator wonders “what if my neighbor believes he is Marco Polo”. Once suggested, their stories overlap.'
QUILL & QUIRE said: "Pasold acknowledges Don McKay and Daphne Marlatt as influences: both have an affinity for nature imagery and graceful ease in poetically conveying human experiences. Pasold carries on their traditions with distinction, craft and beauty."
E Martin Nolan wrote in THE PURITAN: 'Any Bright Horse begins neatly:
A Man goes on a journey. When he returns, he is changed. It’s not an original story. It keeps happening. This is one way it happens.
'This is condensed Joseph Campbell, and Pasold knows it. Any Bright Horse begins by establishing a complication within its established concept in the second poem, with the journeyer—still just “a man”—going to “Pamir, roof of the world,” where “Lucifer brought us light.” ... The speaker, meanwhile, is “looking at the hoodoos of Southern Alberta” but “thinking of his Taklimakan Desert.” “His,” it soon becomes clear, refers to Marco Polo, who—legend has it—travelled to both Pamir and the Taklimakan Desert. Thus, in the book’s first two short poems, nine lines total, Pasold establishes narrative play, destabilization and retelling as the reigning control mechanism and theme of Any Bright Horse. These first two poems define narrative as at once universal (the hero’s journey) and ever changing (due to constant re-telling). But Pasold also lets us know that these poems will bring those narratives forward to her own time and place, and that she will liberally play with the versions of the stories she’s telling, freely merging time, place and plot because, as she writes near the book’s close, “everything is alongside us, simultaneous.” ... Pasold writes that Polo has “one hell of a story,” and in her acknowledgements she mentions a copy that inspired a young Christopher Columbus. Stories, the poet is suggesting, have consequences, and so does their telling.'